It is nothing short of miraculous that Raised by Wolves got commissioned, even for a just a pilot. But that isn’t meant as an indictment. For despite some rough edges, this half-hour sitcomcom written by Caroline and Caitlin Moran is properly original and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s appearance is hard to believe simply because of just how many rules it chooses to break, the extent to which it bowls in as something entirely new and progressive.
Based on the sisters’ experience of growing up, home schooled, on a council estate in Wolverhampton, in a family of eight children, Raised by Wolves introduced us to Germaine (Helen Monks) and Aretha (Alexa Davies). Germaine, with her crayola eyeliner and mess of black hair, is a wonderful Caitlin Moran in miniature, uttering the word “vagina” more often than you’ll hear on any TV show, except perhaps Embarrassing Bodies. Her antithesis is smart, acerbic, red-headed Aretha; a familiar figure for those who have come across the description of Caroline in her sister’s How To Be a Woman. Monks and Davies are a formidable pair, carrying the bulk of the show on their more than capable shoulders.
It’s important to bear in mind that the Moran’s are blatantly not suggesting that their characters optimise the West Midlands, are representative of the entire working class. Yet isn’t it nice to see poor kids who are reading Sylvia Plath and idolising George Orwell, instead of moping about looking deprived in concrete underpasses? To have a single unemployed mum who is more than a mascara-streaked, passive aggressive victim of her own vile self loathing?
For Rebekah Staton’s disgruntled matriarch Della is a marvel of trope-defying originality. She begrudgingly chain smokes out the window (“Imagine, if I hadn’t had kids, I could smoke in a chair!”), she uses her multitude of offspring to carry the shopping in from the boot of the car, she borrows money from her children, she swears, she holds up Alan Sugar as a pinnacle of self-fulfilment. And all of that is ok. You’re not encouraged to go “Oh look what a bad mother, those poor deprived kids”, or even “Ah bless, she’s doing the best she can”. She’s simply a witty, shrewd woman in a slightly ridiculous situation, who also happens to be preparing for the apocalypse. Perhaps wisely.
That Raised by Wolves is a debut for the Morans is occasionally apparent. The dialogue is a little too ostentatious, the girls’ arguments reading more like a section from Caitlin’s Times column than a screenplay. But everyone has to start somewhere, right? It’s only fair to commission a series to give the sisters a chance to really stretch their sitcom muscles. A slightly clunky run is a small price to pay for the chance to experience something so promising.
That Germaine’s explicit, yet naive, sexual talk is so jarring just demonstrates how much we need things like Raised by Wolves. We hear, and expect, much worse from the likes of The Inbetweeners lads. Yet when it’s a teenage girl talking about someone feeling up her own boobs, it all gets a bit close to the bone. And how ridiculous is that? The accusation recently voiced is that feminism is “cool” now. Well thank god if it means we get to have shows like this see the light of day.
It might not be your cup of tea. You might find its politics too transparent. But regardless, you cannot deny that we’ve not seen anything like Raised by Wolves before. And, with fingers crossed for a future full series, let’s hope we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Raised by Wolves is available to watch on 4od
Photo: Colin Hutton/Big Talk/Channel 4